Feeds

Blighty might have astronauts in future, says UK gov

They will ride into space astride flying pigs

Business security measures using SSL

The UK government is to reconsider the idea of British astronauts, after deciding 22 years ago that there would be none.

The BBC reports today that a new review of manned spaceflight will be carried out by the British National Space Centre (BNSC) - a government body - as part of the new space strategy. The BNSC will report on the potential costs and benefits that might result from Blighty's boys and girls going into space.

The final decision will be made by ministers at the Department for Innovation, Universities, and Skills (which has science within its portfolio).

Science and Innovation Minister Ian Pearson said: "Space technology is a vital part of our everyday life... Applications from space underpin today's major business sectors... The UK is at the leading edge."

Recent UK space efforts have included the Beagle lander, which hitched a ride to Mars aboard a European spacecraft at colossal expense and then plunged to oblivion achieving nothing.

More positively, British makers have produced the initial GIOVE-A testbed satellite for the Galileo sat nav programme, and will now produce an interim GIOVE-A2 to keep hold of the project's frequency slots.

Whether or not the UK decides to have astronauts, finding and funding spacecraft for them to fly on could be problematic. The scientific budgets are under severe strain at present owing to the running costs of so-called "big science" projects such as the Diamond particle-punisher.

Blighty's physics and astronomy boffins are facing severe job losses as a result, and are already up in arms. If even more of them were sacrificed to pay for a small number of space aces - some of whom at least would presumably not be scientists at all - there would be even more trouble.

The head of the RAF has lately said he would happily provide some of his highly-trained aircrew to be astronauts, but the British military is also strapped for cash and certainly has none to spare for spaceships.

The new UK-forces Skynet 5 comm sats had to be bought with money borrowed on the promise it would be repaid from Treasury "conflict resolution" budget supplements in coming years. This seems a safe bet as the conflict in Afghanistan will take a long time to resolve; but this probably isn't a viable way to fund manned spaceflights.

All in all, then, the putative British astronauts' best chance of actually getting into space would seem to involve trying for a free ride with NASA - or perhaps the Russians, Europeans, Chinese, maybe orbital bubble tycoon Robert Bigelow - some outfit which is actually serious about space exploration.

In effect, the UK government has no real space ambitions - none that it's prepared to back up with cash, anyway - and this doesn't really seem to be changing. A Briton keen to get into space would probably have a better chance of doing so by becoming a billionaire biz kingpin and buying his or her way into orbit than by trying for a future British astronaut programme.

Mr Pearson said: "These coming decades promise to be even more exciting than the last. The Government is determined that the UK remains at the forefront of the evolving space scene." [Our emphasis].

"I look forward to working with all sides of the space community in delivering our exciting vision," he added. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.